In a three-team transaction on Monday, the Atlanta Braves received catcher Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for All-Star William Contreras going to the Milwaukee Brewers. Nine players were traded in all, with five going to Oakland.
The entire trade, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, is as follows:
Braves earn a C Theo Murphy
Brewers earn a C RHP Joel Payamps, LHP Justin Yeager, and William Contreras
Get: A’s OF Kyle Muller, RHP, Freddy Tarnok, C, Esteury Ruiz, LHP Royber Salinas, RHP, and Manny Pia
Murphy, 28, has an above-average stick and a decent glove, making him one of baseball’s best backstops overall. Since 2020, he’s averaged 14 home runs, played excellent defense, and accumulated a slash line of.235/.326/.422 (113 OPS+). For instance, according to Statcast’s data, Murphy’s framing runs last season were in the 86th percentile. Given that he achieved a new career-high in maximum exit velocity last season and finished in the 94th percentile, it is worth considering whether there is any extra offensive upside to be unlocked here.
Regardless of whether or not Murphy improves further, he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season, making him more than a rental or short-term fit. He’s projected to make about $3.5 million next season in what serves as his first year of arbitration eligibility, per the estimates housed at MLB Trade Rumors.
Murphy’s accessibility is, of course, expected. After the owner-imposed lockout was ended in March, the Athletics began a complete dismantling. During that time, they have dealt Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, and Sean Manaea, all to the Braves. After the Athletics acquired Shea Langeliers as part of the aforementioned Olson transaction, Murphy’s exit became even more likely. He ought to be able to enter the lineup as a starter.
After Willson Contreras (yep, William’s brother) signed a five-year deal with the Cardinals, free agent Christian Vázquez is still available because Murphy has since left the market for catchers.
If a trade isn’t made, current starter Travis d’Arnaud will probably go to a backup position behind Murphy and possibly get some playing time at DH. Of course, Atlanta’s best chance of success lies in a later deal including d’Arnaud.
Contrarily, Contreras, who will turn 25 soon, is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he hit.278/.354/.506 with 20 home runs in 97 games. Contreras has a career OPS+ of 120 over portions of three MLB seasons, and he isn’t expected to become a free agent until after the 2027 campaign. He should provide Milwaukee a much-needed bat in the middle of the lineup. The Brewers will have additional relief depth with Payamps and Yeager in the meantime.
Ruiz and Muller are the best players in the A’s eyes. The former player is a speedster who did well in the minors but does not have a powerful swing. While Muller has considerable talent, he has had difficulty controlling it, walking more than five times out of every nine times throughout his career. He reduced that rate to 2.7 per nine last season, which is commendable. Pia, 35, has a lifetime OPS+ of 90 and has averaged 16 home runs per 62 games played over the course of his nine-year major league career. Although the A’s might give Tarnok a shot to start, he is most likely a hard-throwing reliever. Young right-hander Salinas appears destined for the bullpen as well.